Day 28: From the Desert to the Dessert

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Africa » Namibia
May 5th 2010
Published: May 6th 2010
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Day 28: From the Desert to the Dessert

Last night, we dined under the stars, drinking a very expensive bottle of wine purchased in Morgenhof. My French has improved a great deal and the group has now split into two - the French speaking and Andrea, who has made very little effort to join in preferring to pitch her tent away from the rest of us, preferring to sit away from us for meals and wandering off on her own when we're doing things together. Surprisingly, my best buddy is the French guide; both he and I have an interest in photography and we're always the last to return from a trip as we're too busy behind the lens.

With the sky so clear, the Milky Way was (again) very visible and I was delighted to be included in a (French) conversation regarding the stars - although I couldn't tell you the French names for the constellations! Anyway, the point is, that with the sky being so clear, come 05h30, when it was time to get up, the stars shed enough light so that a torch was not required and, more importantly for some, it was cold! Whilst I'd slept well, others had not realised just how cold it could be in the desert and, come morning, the tents were covered in a heavy dew.

Breakfast was simply coffee and, after brushing and packing the tents, we set off at 06h55 across the sand. Continuing our journey northwards, we arrived in the little town of Solitaire at 08h00. Although it doesn't appear very big, with a petrol station and a bakery being the only two apparent buildings, the bakery is somewhat renowned and as such, the town seems to be the centre of the local universe. Old cars have been tastefully arranged around the petrol station whilst, in the bakery, the owner was serving very nice apple cake (apfelgebak), good Viennese Fingers and reasonable coffee! Even though it was only 08h00, the sun was already hot and the coldness of the previous evening was already forgotten.

Back in the bus, we make our way across dirt roads, Oryx and Ostrich scratching an existence in the barren landscape to our left and right. Mile after mile of desolation followed until we began to climb and the landscape changed slightly. Driving through the Gaub Pass, the rock strata were highly visible and formed an interesting landscape after the barren nature of the previous hours. Coming out the other side, we were back into the arid semi-desert - until we came to the Kauseb Pass. On reaching the top, we pulled into a rest area and there, in front of us … was nothing. Completely empty, Nothing stretched for miles. It was the most amazing sight, about 70 miles of blankness between us and the sea and all of it to be traversed by dirt roads.

Setting off into the sun, we made good time on the gravel roads. The rain of previous had clearly not made it this far north, although there were clear signs of some rain. In the heat of the late morning, we passed a cyclist and so stopped and gave her a bottle of water. Shortly after, we met two others and did the same. Eventually, we caught up with the fourth rider and gave him a bottle of water and some food to share. Whilst I could guess at their ultimate destination, I doubt they would have made that journey across the desert on their bikes in a single day. If they're camping, it's going to be cold!

A little after 12h00, we pulled into Walvis Bay. Whale Fish Bay was very windy in comparison to our recent days but, dining on the sea front, amongst the Flamingos was certainly an experience. It was only a few miles farther to Swakopmund, our home for the following two days. The journey up the coast through the sand showed just how precarious the towns are as they are hemmed in by the sea on one side and the Namib desert on the other.

Two nights of (a little more) luxury will follow as we are staying in a Guest House, with a bed and shower to ourselves. My room is pleasant enough and I dare say that I'll sleep well again, although I do need to be up and in breakfast by 07h00 in the morning as I'm being collected at 08h00. I'm not sure what the others are doing on their day off - no doubt we'll be discussing that (in French) this evening.

Sure enough, in the evening, we headed to an Italian Restaurant where, sitting between Maurice and Sebastian, the evening revolved around food and French. The fresh fish and chips (eaten my myself and several of the French) were delicious and the pudding (banoffee pie sundae) was to die for. Apparently, Maurice confessed that he'd never met an Englishman such as I, one who not only tried to speak French, but who wasn't afraid to embrace other cultures. As such, he shook my hand and announced Maintenant, nous sommes comme frères and pronounced me an honorary French citizen. Some things are going just too far!!!!

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